Friday, September 21st is the International Day of Peace; a day for us to reflect on peace and non-violence. As a veteran of the war in Iraq, this day carries, for me, a special meaning. For myself it is a solitary day, a day for me to reflect on the things I have done and seen. For me, it is a day for me to forgive and ask for forgiveness.
We see war on television; we suffer it in 30-second clips and sound bites, and like a fun-sized Halloween candy bar, we consume it quickly and move on barely affected by the things we have seen and heard. We watch our little TV war and react in a manner consistent with the things we have already decided. Some of us will reaffirm our support of military action; others of us will say, “Oh, that’s horrible,” and reaffirm our opposition to the war, but inside, nothing about us has truly been affected by the things we have just witnessed.
For some, the war is not on the television. For these people, these men, women, and children, the war is the life they live. For them, as it was for me, war is the smell of burning flesh, war is the screams of the dying, war is the recoil of a rifle, war is widows and orphans, and war is not glorious. When I see an image of Iraq on television, I think of two things, I think of my friends, living and dead, and I think of the smells. Diesel fuel, burning cars, dead bodies, gunpowder, these are the things that come to me when I see images of that place.
It is my wish that when others see these images, they are affected. That they will stop and recognize that this is not just on television. I hope that they will realize that there are people on the other side of the world, each person infinitely valuable and infinitely unique, people who will never see their wives or husbands again, people who will die having never held their children, people who have names and quirky habits, crooked smiles and funny laughs.
Think for a moment about what you can do to help our soldiers. What can you do to unite friends and families? What can you do instead of changing the channel or getting up and grabbing a snack from the fridge? Perhaps you can just sit there for a moment longer and remember that it is real. Let it make your day a little bit worse. Decide to do something about it.
There are many things you can do to move towards peace: write letters, join organizations with peace-minded goals, or talk to your friends. Let others know that supporting our troops means more than some yellow magnet, it means letting them come home to their families, it means providing them with quality mental and physical care when they come home, it means acting towards peace.
Wichita State University College Democratic Socialists